New and unusual sounds take center stage in centennial season 

For 11 years, the question Michael Tilson Thomas has heard most often about programming has been, “When is American Mavericks coming back, when are you going to do it again?”

Click on the photo at right to see a slideshow of some of this season's performers.

Audiences, critics and MTT agree that these concerts, held only in 2000, were iconic, pathfinding and daring. Symphony Executive Director Brent Assink calls Mavericks “one of those ‘only in San Francisco’ events.”

MTT considers what he calls “the iconoclastic spirit that so many people identify with San Francisco” as he prepares for two special features of the orchestra’s centennial season.

The American Mavericks Festival, showcasing avant-garde and contemporary music, comes to Davies Symphony Hall in March, and Barbary Coast and Beyond’s semi-staged productions with music from San Francisco’s early days (between the Gold Rush and the 1915 Panama-Pacific International Exposition) will be presented in May.

The American Mavericks Festival has its roots in The City, but it also reaches out in the world of contemporary music.

The first round of Mavericks featured rare, some first-time,  performances of avant-garde 20th-century American classical music, with participation from some Grateful Dead members. The concerts, boasting overflowing houses of uniquely mixed audiences of young and old, rock fans and traditional long-hair aficionados, became MTT’s most acclaimed programs early in his position as music director.

Mavericks also became a popular public radio series and  website championing new and unusual American symphonic music.

Among this season’s commissioned premieres will be John Adams’ “Absolute Jest,” Mason Bates’ “Mass Transmission” and Morton Subotnick’s “Jacob’s Room: Monodrama.”   

Works by Meredith Monk, Charles Ives, Henry Cowell, Charles Ruggles, John Cage, Lou Harrison and Aaron Copland also will be presented in The City, and on the orchestra’s two-week tour to New York; Ann Arbor, Mich.; and Chicago.

Peformers include Monk, Jessye Norman, Jeremy Denk, Emanuel Ax, the St. Lawrence String Quartet, Joan La Barbara and organist Paul Jacobs.

“San Francisco has always been known for its independent spirit,” says MTT. “Consistent with The City’s character, the orchestra has been daring in exploring a variety of musical territories. In our centennial season, we celebrate this spirit by building on the American Mavericks Festival of 2000 with a provocative mixture of music by iconic pioneers, as well as works new to our audience.”

For Barbary Coast and Beyond, MTT serves as curator, conductor and host. Soprano Laura Claycomb and pianist Anton Nel join the orchestra as the story of early-20th-century San Francisco is told through music, costumes, lighting and imagery. Program details will be announced soon.

American Mavericks

Opening concert
March 8-9
MTT conducts works by Copland, Harrison and Ives; with Paul Jacobs, organ

March 10, March 14
MTT conducts works by Foss, Cowell and Cage; with Jessye Norman, Meredith Monk and Joan La Barbara, vocals; and Jeremy Denk, piano

March 11, 2 p.m.
Chamber music by Partch, Cowell and Subotnick; with Joan La Barbara, vocals; and Jeremy Denk, piano  
March 15-17
MTT conducts works by Bates, Adams, Feldman and Varese; with Emanuel Ax, piano; Mason Bates, electronica; St. Lawrence String Quartet and San Francisco Symphony Chorus

March 18, 2 p.m.
MTT conducts a chamber program of works by Monk, Reich, Foss and del Tredici; with Laura Claycomb, soprano; and Jeremy Denk, piano

Barbary Coast and Beyond
May 10-12
MTT conducts; with Claycomb, soprano; and Anton Nel, piano

*Programs are at 8 p.m. in Davies Hall unless noted.

About The Author

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben

Janos Gereben is a writer and columnist for SF Classical Voice; he has worked as writer and editor with the NY Herald-Tribune, TIME Inc., UPI, Honolulu Star-Bulletin, San Jose Mercury News, Post Newspaper Group, and wrote documentation for various technology companies.
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